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[CDT-L] Montana 98 (part 5)

Sunday, August 9.  East Glacier Park -
Ginny:    A lazy day, waiting for the train. The eastbound morning train
was canceled.  Last night's 7:30 pm westbound train came in at 12:30 am
- only 29 hours late (some bridges were washed out in Wisconsin).
Tonight's is only supposed to be a little late - we hope.  We spent the
day wandering around town (doesn't take long, it's a small town), sat on
the balcony at Glacier Lodge admiring the mountains, sat on the porch at
the general store and watched the trains go by every half hour or so,
and ate.  The cars were all rented out or we would have driven back to
the park, but we were too tired yesterday to make concrete plans or

        The hills are showing their best face - blue skies, green hills,
mountains, very clear air. Yesterday when we were hiking was hazy, today
is crystal clear - naturally. I really hate to leave, even knowing that
we'll be back.  I contrast the peace and beauty of these past weeks with
the insanity of living in the city, and I hate to get on the train.  But
discussions with Mark revealed the difficulty of living in a place where
a 100 day season must provide the income for the next 8 months and the
town closes up for the winter - Mark's is about the only business still
open after October.  Some of the people here spend their summers in
Montana and winters in Arizona.  Not a bad life, but not much security
either.  Some do quite well though.  

Jim -     A long day of sitting, waiting and reading.  We're not used to
this inactivity but we probably need a day like this for our sore
muscles and feet.  And to give my cold a chance to die - although it
looks like that's not gonna happen real soon.  We packed and left our
bags at Mark's place, then wandered around town and the East Glacier
Lodge, bought a few things (i.e.- spent too much money), ate too much,
read a little and finally caught the train to Whitefish (it was late
again).  Got to Whitefish, caught a ride to the motel and crashed. 
Waiting all day like that is really tiring.  

Monday, August 10.  Silver Spring, MD -
Jim -     Another day of waiting - breakfast at Denny's, a walk across
the street to mail the stove back home, a taxi to the airport - and it
was noon.  But our flight didn't leave until  1355 - and it was late
too.  Late enough that I started to worry about making our connection in
Minneapolis, but we did get there in time.  They didn't feed us on the
plane so we were hungry when we got to Minneapolis but we were too late
to get something to eat  - they were already boarding our flight to
Dulles.  So we got on the plane and then sat there for 45 minutes while
they "shifted luggage to balance the aircraft".   Should have gotten
something to eat before we got on the aircraft.  Seems Northwest wasn't
on strike - but they were in a "slowdown" mode.  Getting a shuttle out
of Dulles was a trick, too.  When we finally got one it took him 90
minutes to get us home - and we were the first stop.  That's normally a
40 minute trip when I drive it - in traffic - and he was doing it at
0100 with no traffic.  The upside is that we got to meet Bob Mason - he
was returning from a week's climbing trip in British Columbia.  Again,
we got home and crashed - all those dirty clothes and equipment will
wait until tomorrow.  

Summary/Lessons learned - 

Like the AT, each section of the CDT has it's own separate and totally
different character.

Eleven days this year plus eleven days last year and we've done 10% of
the CDT.  Only 18 more years to go - or one.  Average miles per day this
year = 11.5.  

Our experience with the Glacier Park personnel was somewhat at odds with
what we expected because there have been a number of people who told us
how uncooperative, hard to deal with, obstructionist, etc. Glacier Park
personnel were toward them.  In our case, we saw none of that and, in
fact, encountered only the best of what the staff had to offer - they
were unfailingly courteous, helpful, enthusiastic and cooperative. 
Specifically I'd like to extend my thanks Sue Bechtel (sp??) at Goat
Haunt, to Dan Roy and Kim Peach at Two Medicine and to Diane Steele at
Many Glacier.  There were others whose names I didn't manage to remember
and I apologize for that, but all of them exhibited attitudes that
deserve only the highest praise.

Bears - there are a lot of horror stories - but 99% of those stories
were precipitated by the people involved.  Take precautions, don't
panic, do it right and you won't be likely to become one of the horror
stories.  Having someone get killed in the park shortly before we
arrived didn't help with the pre-trip bear jitters, but once we were
hiking, we just talked a lot, sang a bit, and kept our eyes and ears
open.  By the end of the first week, we had stopped expecting a bear
around every bush. Instead we started wondering why we were the only
ones in Glacier who hadn't seen a bear.  (One man said he saw eight, and
he never left the roads!) Did we smell THAT bad?  

The shelters at Goat Haunt were a surprise.  We thought the only shelter
on the CDT was in Colorado - if it can be called a shelter.  We really
didn't like them much. It's an efficient way of holding a lot of people,
but noisy and sleeping on concrete floors is hopeless. That's not why we
came out here.  Campsites are heavily used, hard, and close together,
but they do concentrate the impact/damage and force people to follow the
rules of separating sleeping from eating. In this situation, given the
population, that's probably a necessity.

The treadway is mostly stone and gravel - hard on the feet.  Lots of
long uphill and downhill runs - hard on the toes.  But most of the time
the grade is easy and the trail wide and fairly smooth. We did a lot of
looking around while we hiked, which isn't possible on the rougher
trails we are used to. The problem was to keep from following your eyes
and falling off a cliff as we walked, looking up for mountain goats or
down the hills for bears.

Weather - The rainy season ended in mid to late July.  Evidently June is
the really wet month up here. We had two thunderstorms on consecutive
nights,  followed by one day of rain, but the rest of our trip was warm,
sunny and mostly clear.  Beautiful.  The snowpack was (mostly) gone by
late July, but not entirely.  And this was a very light snow year.  It
was very warm while we were hiking - in the 80's some days. 

The sun is hot and strong, and it'll dry your gear (and skin) really
fast. Use sunscreen and a hat.   Above treeline the sun can get really
intense and burn you within a couple miles. The wind is also dry - and
it'll dry you out too.  Watch out for dehydration - we were filtering as
much as 12 quarts per day for the two of us (plus what we boiled for
meals) and we were still dehydrated.  Filter ALL water except what you
boil - there are no "good" water sources.  
Even more than in Colorado last year, the only real choice for a
guidebook is Jim Wolf's CDTS published book.  The others are all
questionable and lack either detail or accuracy.  

Those with acrophobia need not apply.  The trail is sometimes an 8 to 12
inch goat path with a 1000' or more drop on one side and sheer vertical
cliffs or scree slopes rising on the other side.  It can be "scary".  
It may have been built for horses, but I wouldn't want to ride a horse
up there. 

Cooking - sleeping - food storage ---- they're done in separate places. 
It ain't the AT where you cook from your sleeping bag and then sleep
with your food.  If you do that on the CDT, you become bear bait.  

Wildlife - we saw few, if any, eagles and hawks, which was a surprise -
especially considering the plethora of hawk and eagle food running
around. Some of the locals were also surprised - there are usually more
raptors during the summer.  Other than bear (of which we saw only two -
and those at very long range), we saw bighorn sheep, mountain goats,
elk, marmots, mule deer, moose, a ptarmigan, ground squirrels,
chipmunks, rabbits and even a wolverine.  

Livestock - we saw no cows or sheep this year - but this is a National
Park so that wasn't expected.  But we did see a couple horses outside
the Park and signs of horses inside the Park - and we saw the extensive
damage that horses can do to a trail.  I took pictures of that - and if
they're any good, those pictures will find their way into some of the
horse arguments - especially in PA.  I'm willing to live with horses on
the trails - but I do want to know why horse people are so resistant to
getting off their horses and repairing the trail damage that their
horses cause. 

Overall - hiking Glacier was tiring (a lot of elevation gain), but an
absolutely fantastic and wonderful experience.  I'd recommend it to
anyone who really loves the mountains.  The scenery was at least as good
as Colorado last year, although the elevation was a lot lower.  For us,
it was also another part of our education about the CDT - and it'll make
next year a little bit easier for us.  

Ginny (has to get in the last word):    I am more determined than ever
come back next year and thruhike the CDT.  We've done about 1/10 of it
now - not the hardest parts, but not the easiest either.  Definitely
some of the most scenic sections, I think.  And yet, I am looking
forward to so many parts - the rest of Colorado, the Anaconda Pintlar
Range, the Gila Wilderness, the Bob Marshalls, the Wind River Range,
Yellowstone, etc.  We were hurting when we got to East Glacier, and very
glad to come to town for a shower, food and rest. But I could happily
take off tomorrow for another 100 miles. (On the train ride out, we were
really excited to see the trailhead at Marias Pass leading into the Bob
Marshall/Scapegoat Wilderness section. Looking at the map I kept
thinking, "Next year!")  At the same time, I recognize that long
distance hiking is very different from a two week vacation. I felt, a
little, the push for miles that seems to take over a long hike, but that
was restrained by the Glacier Reservation System.  We could go no
farther than our permits allowed, so we might as well relax and enjoy
the shorter mileage days. On a thruhike, the push is always to go a
little bit farther.  When we are back on unregulated trails, will I be
able to resist pushing myself past exhaustion?  Feet is the other
question. My feet were in agony after two 15 mile days in a row, how
will they take 20 mile days?  It has been a long time since we've done
more than 17.  Also, Glacier trails have signs at the junctions and are
easy to follow. The rest of the CDT will not be that easy, I know. Am I
ready for that?  I know that I need to brush up on my compass skills. 
We used map and compass from time to time, mostly to try to figure out
which mountain was which, but I am very rusty.  It needs to become
second nature - and that will take awhile. Ten months to get ready - I
can hardly wait!

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